Prince Vallar: The ‘First’ Scottish Tattooer

It’s only a month until those of us in the North East can see Matt Lodder’s talk on Sutherland Macdonald, Englands ‘first’ tattooer. If you can’t wait until then, how’s about some news of Scotland’s ‘first’ tattooer, from around 30-40 years later?

The BBC has just released some information that ScotlandsPeople, a Scottish history website, which reveals the first known tattooer of the time, called Prince Valler. Prince Vallar started off tattooing high society in their homes, before opening up a shop after tattooing became mainstream across all classes of society. From the BBC:

In 1934, he opened Scotland’s first known tattoo parlour at 404 Argyle Street in Glasgow.

By now tattoos had fallen out of fashion with the upper classes and were favoured by the working classes, with Vallar’s shop became popular among sailors and others looking for unique body art.

He drew all his designs freehand without using transfers, which made his work instantly recognisable.

He died in 1946 but the business continued until 1965, being run first by his son Stephen and latterly his other son Robert.

There’s even more information on the ScotlandsPeople website:

Valler probably visited his clients at home. To keep up his business, in September 1915 he even visited the Capital and opened a ‘pop-up’ tattoo shop on Leith Walk. After war service in the Army, Valler resumed his business. It was only in 1934 that he finally opened the first known tattooing premises in Scotland at 404 Argyle Street, Glasgow. By then tattoos were mainly favoured by the working class, and Valler’s shop became a well-known establishment, catering for sailors and others in search of personalised body art. Prince Valler, ‘Tattoo Artist’ died in 1947, and the business continued until 1965, run by his son Stephen and latterly his other son Robert.

This is really cool stuff, and it just goes to show how much of tattooing’s history is yet to be learned. If you’d like to know more about this, please see the article here, or visit ScotlandsPeople here.


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